Exploring Kew Gardens, Part 2




A few months ago, I ventured into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kew Gardens, just as thousands of tiny buds were attempting to burst their heads above the cold ground. 

Now, mid-April, Kew is full bloom. I remember, the first time, feeling overwhelmed by the park's staggering 300 acre size, and only managed to cover the bottom 1/8th of my map. See my blog titled "Winter at Kew Gardens" for my first exploration.   www.mylovelylifeabroad.com/2019/02/winter-at-kew-village-and-gardens.html

Today, I returned to experience the Chihuly: Reflections on Nature exhibit, and decided to take a stab at exploring the rest of this Royal Park. 

So I did just that, and somehow after my exploration, the park just doesn’t seem unattainable any more. It just requires more than a couple hours.  A lot more.  So, why not give it a full day, and experience its full glory?

I arrive via the Central Line, into the Kew Gardens tube stop, and walk through the charming charming village of Kew. It is worth stopping for a take-out coffee or breakfast if you have time, then taking a leisurely stroll down the street, enjoying the  little shops on the way to the Victoria Gate entrance of Kew. 





Immediately upon going through the gate, I’m met by an electrifying display of red, orange and yellow ruffled tulips. (Yes, they really are this bright!)


I start my adventure at the lake in front of the Palm House, and spend a few moments enjoying the Queens swans, as they gracefully circle the bank. (Take a peek inside the Palm House to see the oldest potted plant in the world, dating from 1775)



You might not realize that these gardens are home to more than 30,000 plants and over 8.3 million specimens. Kew vies for the title of largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collection in the world.




The last time I visited, I headed to the right, so today I decide to venture to the left, and follow the path towards the Lion’s Gate stone arch (also called the Ruined Arch). 


Hidden behind the Lion's Gate is the Lion's Gate Lodge, a 19th century home that is currently rented to a lucky member of the public, but originally was home to gardeners.


Fun fact: Did you know that Kew Gardens has had its own police force for 150 years? Originally composed of part time gardeners, today the force consists of 17 officers and  only 1 vehicle!

There are over 40 historically important buildings within Kew Gardens, but it would be impossible to miss the glorious Temperate House, the largest Victorian glass house in the world. Recently refurbished and reopened in 2018, it is home to over 10,000 plants from around the globe (and since March 2019, one vast blue Chihuly sculpture!). 





But for all the beauty of the Temperate House and the garden in general, the highlight for me today is the absolutely stunning cherry blossom path just outside and to the east of the Temperate House. So lucky to be visiting in April!







And then there are the TULIPS!!!! Planted under the trees near the Temperate House, such a happy sight! Can you imagine planting these, one by one? what a job!



Another icon of Kew gardens that would be almost impossible to miss is the beautiful Great Pagoda, a Chinese structure built during the 1770's as a gift  for Princess Augusta, who founded the gardens. You can go to the top of the pagoda for an outstanding birds-eye view, with tours taking place every half hour for £4.50. 



Continuing north, I pass the Japanese Gateway, Woodland Grove and Redwood Forest. Wildflowers are in bloom,  and  find myself getting lost in the beauty of these forested areas. 

Glorious bluebells! and benches for just enjoying!



Just when I'm sure that I am quite lost in the woods, the very charming and dilapidated Queen Charlotte's House comes into view! Complete with thatched roof,  it was built by her husband, George III, as a gift for her. If you wish to go onside, come on a weekend, or bank holiday, when it is open to the public.



Kew is also home to wildlife, including badgers, bats, and at least 6 resident peocock, which puff and preen for their mates near the Lily Pond.




A children's treehouse was closed this day, but looked fun.


Incredibly, I am still going (wishing I had brought a snack with me). There is so much more to see! Next up is the Extrata Treetop Walkway. At 18 meters above the ground, it is a 360 degree walk above the trees, with outstanding views of the park.




Continuing northeast, I arrive at Sackler's Crossing, home to birds enjoying their morning swims.




The Sackler Crossing (bridge, opened 2006) spans the lake behind the Temperate House. What you might not know is that on the bank near the structure are 200 granite bricks originating from the old London Bridge. The story goes that in 1968, when London Bridge was being redone, American entrepreneur Robert P McClaulloch purchased the old bridge, thinking it was the Tower Bridge. He moved it to Lake Havasu, in Arizona, where it stands today, but somehow 200 blocks didn't make the trip, and thus are now part of Kew Gardens!



Taking the trail to the Northeast, we pass the Minka House (acquired from Japan in 2001) and the fast-growing Bamboo Garden. 






And not to be missed this time of year is a stroll in the Rhododendron Dell.


My last stop of the day is Kew Palace is the smallest of the Royal palaces. Built as a get-away for George III, today, you can tour the inside, thanks to Queen Victoria, who gifted the tiny palace to the people of England during her reign.


Hmm.... I realize I still haven't visited the Nash Conservatory, the Herbarium and Archives building, the Children's Garden or the Orangery. But I'm starving, so I guess those buildings will have to wait until next time!





See my Chihuly at Kew blog, for some additional views of today's visit.


Signing off after a delightful April visit to Kew Gardens!



Fyi... here is a handy map, courtesy of the friendly Kew Garden's folks!






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